Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic Preview - The Road Race

A few days off after the Tour de France and now it’s back to work again with the Olympic road race on Saturday the 28th of July. It’s the perfect opportunity for the producers to show off London and the historical sights from the helicopter cameras and hopefully we will get a great start of the Games with this road race.

The route:
With its 250 kilometers the Olympic road race is one of the longest one day races on the calendar (about the same lengths as the Sunday Spring Classics). The riders start out at 10:00 (UK time) on the The Mall in London and hereafter head south-west to cross the River Thames at Putney Bridge. Going into Surrey the race will start for real with 9 laps of 15,5 km on the Box Hill circuit. The climb itself isn’t that hard but after nine laps no wild cards will be handed out for the finale. After the last lap there are still about 50 kilometers to go before the riders finish on The Mall next to Buckingham Palace in the center of London around 16:00 (UK time).

The favorite:
There is one (and only one!) massive favorite for the Olympic gold medal and that is of course Mark Cavendish. Since he won the Olympic test event back in August last year and the World Champions just a month later everything has been build around winning gold on home soil for the fast Manxman. Cavendish changed his training and diet and lost four kilos over the winter - all so he shouldn’t get dropped on the nine laps of Box Hill. Before the Tour de France this year Cavendish said that; “I will not be as successful in the Tour as I have been in the past. I will win stages but I may not win five. My sprint has suffered a little bit, but I am so much faster than the others anyway I can afford to lose a few percent in the sprint in order to be able to get to the line”. Mark Cavendish won three stages in the Tour, two of those within the last three days which shows that his condition is exactly as good as it needs to be in order to take the Olympic gold medal.

Mark Cavendish won the Olympic Test Event in front of Sacha Modolo.
Mark Cavendish also has one of the strongest team in the race to protect him. Bradley Wiggins (Tour winner), Chris Froome (Tour runner up), David Millar (Tour stage winner) and Ian Stannard (British champion) have all showed great shape within the last few weeks and even though they are only four riders (and not 9 like when Cavendish won the World Champion in Denmark last year) I think they will manage to make sure that Mark Cavendish will take the first gold medal for Great Britain at the Olympic Games.

The outsiders:
As stated, I think this will come down to a sprint. Not a typical Tour de France bunch sprint with a big peloton together in the end, but probably around 40 riders. One of my personal outsiders is Sacha Modolo from Italy. The young Italian might have surprised some of you when he took 4th place in Milano-San Remo in 2010 and even though he hasn’t been winning as much as he should have the last two years, he is still a very strong rider on the course like this one. Hasn’t he been working so hard for  Daniele Bennati at the World Champions last year, I’m sure he would have been near the podium in that sprint and don’t forget that Modolo actually got 2nd in the Olympic test event last year  Lately Sacha Modolo won two stages in Tour of Austria plus he took 3rd place on the stage of Tour de Pologne with the hard uphill cobblestones finish won by Zdenek Stybar.

The Italian team is almost as strong as the British one and even though they will be riding a lot more aggressively they still have fast riders like Matteo Trentin (or Elia Viviani) and Luca Paolini to help out Modolo in the end. I will honestly be surprised if this road race ends without an Italian medal of some kind (you can be s.u.r.e. that Vincenzo Nibali will come a strong attack at some point in the final…).

The joker:
There is one guy that you simply can’t count out for the this race; Peter Sagan! The Slovakian ‘Tourminator’ destroyed all competition for the Green Jersey in the Tour de France with three stage wins and I actually think he could have won an additional won two or three stages with a little bit of luck. One of these was the last stage in Paris, where he got caught up behind Andre Greipel in the final corner and had to close a gap of 10 meters before trying to pass Cavendish. Had Sagan been in the wheel of Goss I think he would have won that stage…

Peter Sagan won three Tour stages and made it look easy.
Anyway, this is the Olympics and the big difference here is that Peter Sagan won’t have anyone to help him. And I really mean no one! Peter Sagan is the only Slovakian rider (the system is fucked, sorry, because Bulgaria has two riders, Brazil three, Iran three, Turkey three and even Malaysia has one more than Slovakia with two riders on the start list). Being without team mates also means that Sagan will have to get back to the cars to get water and food by himself and that will probably drain him a tiny bit more than for example Cavendish and the other contenders with a strong team to help out. Still, if Peter Sagan is in the front group in the final only very few riders will be able to beat him and that means at least a bronze medal for the Slovakian wonder kid.

Winner pick: Mark Cavendish
Outsider: Sacha Modolo
Joker: Peter Sagan


  1. Trentin is replaced by Viviani. Does that interfeer with the chances of Modolo?

  2. Well, it seems that gold medal will stay at UK with Cav. In Beijing, Samu gave us a huge surprise. Gilbert is not in form, but he is my pick for an outsider victory.

    CAV-SAGAN v Gilbert

  3. If it's now 100% sure that Trentin leaves the spot for Viviani it makes no difference for Modolo's chances. Both Viviani and Trentin will do a great leadout if needed. Viviani probably faster, but his main focus will be on the track of course.

  4. Gilbert is a good pick. I think he is ready. Before the Tour he said he would use the Tour to finetune is shape for the Olympics. Let's see if it worked..

  5. Hi Mikkel,

    Really like the blog, you do a great job. And you definitely know cycling.
    I was wondering if you could offer some insight on the Olympics Time Trial course. I heard there are a few hilly sections and I wondered if this might swing things in favour of Christopher Froome. He is a very juicy $20 to 1 outsider for the Gold. As we saw in the TDF, Froome was the next best to Wiggins in the TT stages so I was interested to know more about the route and if there's an advantage there to Froome. Also, do you know if Team Sky have been practising on this route a lot? They are a team from Great Britain so would Froome and Wiggins be very familiar with the course? Would Wiggins have an advantage because he's more familiar with it than Froome?

  6. Hi. Thank you very much. Much obliged. My preview of the Olympic Time Trial will be online tomorrow (Tuesday) if not today already. No doubts about that the Sky-duo Wiggins/Froome are the two big favorites now after Cancellara's crash. I will go into details in the preview. Stay tuned :)